SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Felipe Massa was penalized for going too fast in the pitlane, stopped off at the McLaren garage by mistake but still sent his home crowd crazy with a third-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mobbed by a crowd of Brazilian reporters in the cramped Interlagos paddock, his young son alongside in a T-shirt declaring ‘My Daddy’s a Williams driver’, the 33-year-old savored the moment.
As he told retired triple world champion and compatriot Nelson Piquet on the podium, he made so many mistakes and yet was so happy.
“I had the drive-through, the five seconds for the penalty for the speed limiter. Also I stopped in the McLaren (pits) because it was similar and it just was prepared before my garage,” he said.
“But the car was fantastic, I’m so grateful for the pace.”
The podium was his second of the season with resurgent Williams, the former champions he joined after eight years at Ferrari, and first in front of his home crowd since he finished third in 2012.
His last win, in 2008, when he missed out on the title by a single point, was also at Interlagos.
“I think the race was amazing. Everything that happened in my race today,” he said after finishing behind Mercedes title rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
He explained that when he braked at the pitlane entry, he had pressed the speed limiter but it had not worked properly and he had to brake again.
He made up the time but when he came in for a subsequent pitstop, it all went wrong again and this time he could only blame himself.
He glided to a halt in front of the bemused McLaren mechanics, who hurriedly waved him on to the Williams crew waiting a few meters away.
“I stopped in the McLaren (pits) because they changed our garage at this race and we are a lot more in the middle and McLaren with the similar color –- not white but you know –- I thought it was our garage,” he explained.
His fans kept on singing and screaming anyway, throughout and after the race.
“It’s amazing. The whole energy that I had this weekend, it’s difficult to explain,” said Massa. “Difficult to explain the emotion.”
The points helped third-placed Williams stretch their lead over Ferrari to 44 points with one race remaining.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Steve Tongue